The characters’ unhappiness and hopes will resonate with many readers.

PICTURE ME

Three middle school girls, loosely connected by their various roles in a school bullying incident, narrate the stories of their lives.

Krista stops attending school and develops a dangerous addiction to diet pills after mean-girl Chelsea posts unflattering photos of Krista around their school. Frustrated by the school’s lack of visible advocacy for Krista, her sole friend, Tessa, creates a series of posters that highlight Krista’s talents—and her absence. Tessa’s campaign successfully engages the school community, providing Krista with much-needed support. Interspersed with the scenes related to bullying are explorations of each girl’s life outside of school: Krista and her father’s reliance on fast food while her mother works, Tessa’s grief over her father’s death during military service in Afghanistan, and Chelsea’s involvement with an abusive drug dealer in an attempt to fill the emotional void created by her selfish mother. Unfortunately, these girls sometimes feel like stock characters, but they do so only because they so accurately represent the reality of many teens’ lives. Middle school readers, in particular, will connect with multiple moments in the story, which ultimately offers some hope that Krista will recover with support from friends and health professionals. Chelsea’s fate is much darker and includes a frightening scene suggesting she is being sexually exploited by the drug dealer.

The characters’ unhappiness and hopes will resonate with many readers. (Fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: March 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4594-0509-7

Page Count: 162

Publisher: James Lorimer

Review Posted Online: Jan. 15, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2014

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Readers who don’t need endings tied up with tight little bows will find much to think about here.

INFINITE SKY

Tragedy emerges from the commonplace miseries of everyday life in this evocative mood piece.

Thirteen-year-old Iris lives with her dad and older brother, Sam, in rural England. Until recently, Iris and Sam had a mum as well, but she’s taken off to Tunisia on a mission to find herself. Now Sam’s associating with ruffians, Dad’s taken to drinking, and Iris is avoiding her best friend, unable to bear the smug pity. When a few caravans of Irish “travelers” squat illegally in Dad’s paddock, Iris sees the possibility of something fresh and untainted in her life. But Dad and Sam loathe the travelers, calling them “Gypsies,” “parasites” and worse. Iris strikes up a friendship—and maybe more?—with 14-year-old Trick, but her father becomes increasingly erratic as he sees his control over his family slipping away. Her Dad repeatedly threatens eviction, and Iris must decide whom to believe in the face of petty crime. A senseless act of violence leads to heavily foreshadowed tragedy. This brief, gloomy debut concludes tidily though with an unclear trajectory: After a summer’s adventure, everyone’s right where they started yet nothing’s the same, mirroring the intransigence of hate.

Readers who don’t need endings tied up with tight little bows will find much to think about here. (Fiction. 10-13)

Pub Date: May 27, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4814-0658-1

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: March 12, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2014

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Despite this shortcoming, another interesting read for horse lovers and Abby Lovitt fans.

PIE IN THE SKY

From the Horses of Oak Valley Ranch series , Vol. 4

Smiley continues the equine adventures of Abby Lovitt (True Blue, 2011, etc.).

When Abby, now 14 and a high school freshman, takes her beloved horse True Blue to a local horse show, she's shocked by how poorly they perform over fences. A clinic immediately following, with a nationally known rider, goes no better: While he seems to like Abby's riding, he has nothing nice to say about Blue and is, in fact, so rude toward Abby's group that one girl, Sophia, gets off her horse and refuses to ride again. Period. Abby gets a chance to school Sophia's lovely horse Pie in the Sky, which helps her understand why Blue is having trouble. A completely different sort of clinic, with a "natural horseman" (à la Buck Brannaman, the inspiration for The Horse Whisperer), gets Abby, Sophia and Blue back on the road to success. Smiley's writing is, as always, nearly flawless. Her evocation of the horse world of northern California in the 1960s is pitch-perfect, and Abby remains a complex and sympathetic character. But this story carries less weight than its three predecessors. Readers will believe from the start that Abby will sort out Blue's issues, and Sophia's problems are not particularly compelling. Without a strong problem, the story lacks tension and the resolution, force.

Despite this shortcoming, another interesting read for horse lovers and Abby Lovitt fans. (Fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 11, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-375-86968-6

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: July 18, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2012

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